PACIFIC OCEAN — During the sea phases of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, the United States and its allies and naval partners embarked in nearby Hawaiian waters to begin the training phase for the integration of exercise strength, also known as the FIT phase.
The United States Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) returned to sea with a multinational team aboard, including sailors representing Australia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Israel, Mexico, the Republic of Korea and Singapore. Among the diverse crew were three chaplains from the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy.
“This is the first time Essex has embarked ROK Navy chaplains, making this a rather unique moment in the ship’s history,” the US Navy commander said. Essex Group Chaplain Aaron Roberton. “Not only are we strengthening international partnerships through this multinational exercise, but we are demonstrating that even chaplains understand and practice interoperability. We have shown that we can execute the faith ministries mission of providing and facilitating a variety of religious services that meet the needs and beliefs of the ship’s diverse crew.
With increased support from chaplains on board, Essex has increased its available church services throughout the week, to include daily Catholic Masses, Buddhist and Protestant services. Although some of these services are only offered in Korean, ROK Navy Catholic Chaplain Lt. Younggun Ahn encourages everyone to attend.
“When people approach me, I invite them in with an open heart. I think that kind of attitude is a universally understood language in itself,” Ahn said.
RIMPAC trains and improves leadership at all levels. It also offers partner nations the opportunity to come together for events such as the 2022 Rim of the Pacific International Chaplaincy Symposium, held July 7-8 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. .
“The diverse religious community of a large combined fleet needs chaplains from partner nations to work together to ensure sailors and navies from all cultural backgrounds are spiritually prepared to accomplish the mission,” said the Fleet Chaplain to Commander, U.S. Third Fleet, Capt. Darren Stennett.
The symposium brought together chaplains from all military services from different countries with the goal of promoting international partnership, sharing best practices and building important connections to support operations in the Pacific.
“As chaplains, we have an active approach to supporting all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, and not just staying away,” said ROK Navy Buddhist Chaplain Lt. Minsu Wi. “We will study English and use translators if necessary. It is not the language that is important, but the sincerity of our heart. It shows in our gestures and expressions.
RIMPAC builds true partnerships based on mutual understanding and respect.
“The ships represent their country,” said ROK Protestant chaplain Lt. Cmdr. Gu Lee. “The fact that three chaplains from the Republic of Korea were invited aboard Essex shows that the United States, regardless of nationality or religion, has allowed us to come here in a common and combined value of freedom. ROK Navy supports these shared values, and we will continue to demonstrate it.
Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, three submarines, more than 170 aircraft and 25,000 personnel are participating in RIMPAC from June 29 to August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. The largest international maritime exercise in the world, RIMPAC provides a unique training opportunity while fostering and maintaining cooperative relationships among participants essential to keeping sea lanes safe and the world’s oceans safe. RIMPAC 2022 is the 28th exercise in the series which began in 1971.